He stood up, single-handed and unarmed, against a violent Occupy Wall Street mob. He followed hundreds of masked Black Bloc thugs for six city blocks, yelling at them to stop smashing car windows and storefronts. He’s a former Google employee with a day job in real estate who runs his own innovative taco delivery business. He’s been hailed as a “hipster hero” by residents desperate for someone–anyone–to stand up to the madness after months of politically protected mayhem. Until now, he’s been known merely as “the guy that loves his neighborhood.” Meet Dustin Boyer, the guy who saved San Francisco.
On the eve of May 1–the infamous May Day Riot–the Black Bloc mob had paraded along Valencia Street through the heart of San Francisco’s mission district, shouting slogans, ripping up street signs, throwing newspaper racks into the street–and even attacking police cars in a giddy frenzy of destruction.
As police cars scattered, the masked mob–a purported splinter group from the radical movement endorsed by President Barack Obama and San Francisco’s own celebrated congressional representative, Nancy Pelosi–began shattering store windows, terrorizing convenience store cashiers and shocking restaurant patrons. A viral video of the orgy of violence [posted below] turned up on YouTube earlier this month.
Reviewing the footage, the PJ Tatler said it best on May 23: “The video really speaks for itself. Send it to anyone and everyone you know who still expresses sympathy for Occupy Wall Street or who has ever accused the Tea Party of being out of the mainstream.”
As the black-clad rioters assaulted everything in their path, with the San Francisco Police Department seemingly unable to respond, a man in a baseball hat and grey hoodie–Dustin Boyer–stepped onto the sidewalk and began trying to stop them. On the video, his voice is first heard just after the seven-minute mark: “Hey! Hey! Stop that!”
Dustin–completely unarmed–stood his ground against several Black Bloc members carrying black flags, crowbars and truncheons. “Hey! You don’t even know them!” he scolded, standing in front of broken store windows as the rioters took aim at neighboring shops.
He followed the mob for several blocks. “You don’t know who those cars belong to!” he shouted at the vandals as they tried to shatter windshields. “I’m a rational person engaging in dialogue,” he explained to a masked thug who tried to block his way down the street–and who, embarrassed, eventually relented.
“You want to talk?” Dustin challenged a group of rioters that surrounded him.
“Shut the fuck up!” one shouted back. “What do you want to talk about?” asked another.
“Don’t hit people’s cars,” he explained, as the marauding gang slowly shrank away, seemingly chastened.
Breitbart News tracked Dustin down through a mutual friend, and he told his story publicly for the first time.
So I was getting pizza with a friend of mine. And we saw that there was some commotion outside. And we walked out onto the street. There were about two hundred people marching down the street with black flags, banging and shouting through megaphones. It was unclear what they were angry about.
We looked over at my friend’s car, which he had just bought, and this guy was attacking it with a road sign. And he stopped doing it, but I decided to follow him and just see if I could get a photo, or call the police and quietly trail him, and maybe have the police come and asrrest him. And because my friend is a dude of modest means, watching someone smash his car got me fed up.
So I started following them, and they were hitting other cars, and I started yelling at them to stop. They started yelling about gentrification, and I started arguing with them about it. And I said hey, you don’t know who these people are.
And then the guys that had flags started using the flagpoles to smash windows. It was kind of interesting because they were very much the kind of people who want to exert power but only if there’s no one watching them. And as soon as I would start yelling at them, they would just move on. And then they’d smash something else, and I would yell. I followed them for six blocks and then I started yelling and talking, and then eventually the police came in and surrounded everyone and I thought I was going to get arrested, so I took off running in the other direction. And I went and finished my dinner.
The part that was most satisfying was that on the way back, I met a woman who had had her car spray painted, and had actually seen the guy, and I had stopped him. And she said, “Thank you for doing this.” And so that was actually really rewarding, because they ended up smashing all the other windshields on that block.
I didn’t stop the damage. I probably just decreased the amount of damage. I was just yelling and talking rationally.
The conversations, Dustin recalls, quickly revealed a group of committed but confused people.
A lot of the conversation centered around gentrification. The riot happened in the Mission, which was traditionally a Latino community, where there was once a lot of crime, and it was once really dirty. The city put a lot of effort into improving Valencia Street, and there are a lot of new businesses, so these guys were angry that was happening, and they blamed me for it and said, “You’re ruining this neighborhood!” And I said, “I don’t even live in this neighborhood,” and they’re like, “It doesn’t matter, because you come here to shop.”
And I asked them: “Are you going to prevent me from coming here to shop, or prevent people from opening local businesses?” And what was interesting was that they’re the sort of people that hang out with people who only have the same views as they do, so that what I said was almost something they’d never heard. At one point they started chanting, “White boy, go home!” And I answered: “I have a right to be here. I have a right to talk to you. I have a right to engage you.” And they were like, “Oh, yeah, I guess that’s true.”
Dustin says he did not feel physically threatened at any point, though he was careful not to put himself between “different objects and somebody with a weapon.” He tried to explain the futility of violence to them:
I said to them, if they are really angry at people with BMWs parking their cars in the neighborhood, what good is $200 damage going to do to a car worth thousands? That’s not going to change anything. Two hundred people could make a huge difference in city politics. If they cared about affordable housing, they could have spent that night organizing, and they could have had a real impact, but instead they just overturned a bunch of plants and slashed a bunch of tires, and so now everyone in San Francisco has turned against them.
Despite his encounter with the Black Bloc mob, Dustin has retained a degree of empathy for them, and their anger. “Even though I don’t agree with any of their principles, they seemed like principled people,” he says.
They had simply never met someone with a different idea–or someone brave enough to risk all to defend it.
Dustin Boyer can be followed on Twitter: @nub